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Mapping The Future

Executive lifelong learning: Key to Philippine resurgence

04:01 AM November 11, 2019

In the course of our careers and lives, we have seen great leaders, leaders who get the job done, mediocre leaders and “toxic” leaders.

According to St. Augustine, God allows certain leaders to take power at certain times as a form of reward or punishment. This is true certainly in all sectors, whether private or government. While the above sounds fatalistic, leadership is highly contextual and as a human resource professional, I believe that leadership can be shaped and cultivated.

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The leadership challenges vary at different points in time and in different venues. Today, the challenges faced by executives are unprecedented and the central question is: How do you enable transformative leadership in an era of disruptive change brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the erosion of trust in institutions, the emerging millennials and Gen Zs, the shifting geopolitical landscape, global climate change and the widening chasm between the rich and the poor? At the firm level, the intense competitive landscape, the increasingly global world, more demanding customers, pressures to deliver a better value proposition, cost containment and shaping the regulators mind-sets require leaders to be at the top of their game on a 365/24/7 basis.

The Crisis

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We have a leadership crisis in our hands. And we have the power and the choice to become either an inspirational great leader who will move mountains or a toxic leader that no one loves or somewhere in between.

Let me posit the argument that the answer to this crisis is lifelong learning.

According to Wikipedia, Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development, but also self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability.

The accountability is placed in each of us to pursue lifelong learning and executive development, no matter what stage of our careers we are in.

A resurgent Philippines requires lifelong learners at every executive level (and in fact, every organizational level), whether private or public, and this will build and develop a national culture of learning and transform the Philippines to be a learning nation.

The Quest

It starts with each and every one of us occupying executive leadership positions wherever we are. We need not wait for our organizations to sponsor us to be sent to a forum, business school or a program that we see in our social media sites or the newspapers.

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One has to clearly begin with defining what are his/her lifelong career aspirations and consequently learning objectives. Do we want to become the CEOs of our companies? Do we want to become functional/technical experts who reach the pinnacles of their chosen fields?

Do we want to shift to another industry? Do we want to have a breadth of management knowledge? Do we deep dive into a field that we want to become an expert in? Having defined the “what,” the struggle starts with defining the “how.”

The Struggle

This is where discipline sets in. Once a lifelong learning goal is set, the executive leader has to remain single-minded and focused toward achieving it. More often than not, the pressures of day-to-day operations will set in and the learning activities and events will be deprioritized. During the budget season, the first-line item to be cut is training and development.

The Transformation

More innovative and effective executive education strategies are required such as the following:

Lifelong learning on demand. Gone are the days when the only learning route available is the classroom. Now, you can learn anytime, anywhere and at your own pace using that ubiquitous tool of the 21st century, the smartphone. Online learning courses, called massive online open courses, are yours for the picking.

It’s not about the diploma. What is valuable these days are learning experiences and the exposures and not the certificates. Portals that document your learning goals and project team memberships, job assignments, work-related experiences and changes in responsibilities are available. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “personal learning clouds” will empower each learner to have the mind-set and the tools to place executive learning at the top of their agenda.

Blend your learning. The traditional approach is to attend a development program or attend a “feel-good” management event. These days, a blended learning strategy is required. Blended learning is defined as a convergence of face-to-face teaching and e-learning (Asare, Yun-Fei and Adjei-Budu, 2016; Martín García, García del Dujo, and Muñoz Rodríguez, 2014), integrating classroom teaching with online experiences, and combining different media to reinforce the interaction and direct contact with students with the other participants in a course, which provide meaningful and motivating learning (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004; Lakhal, Khechine, and Pascot, 2013; Okaz, 2015; Singh, 2003), through different synchronous and asynchronous teaching strategies (webinars, social networking, blog and forums, live chats, etc.).

Have an executive coach. There is nothing like having a trusted adviser when it comes to your professional and personal career, development and growth. This “career soulmate” will develop coaching objectives and plan aligned with your lifelong learning plan. There will be regular sessions for a period of time, say six months or one year or even longer. It is always beneficial to have a sounding board when it comes to something crucial as one’s career.

Lifelong learning needs to be expanded beyond the individual personal sphere into the broader societal and national realm. In the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), I will be proposing to the board a Philippine lifelong learning and innovation (PL3-IN) nation road map that has three major components:

A learning and innovation index (LIX) that different organizations, both private and public, can utilize to determine their LIX.

A learning and innovation portal to serve as a platform-based repository of resources and knowledge in lifelong learning available to MAP members.

A dialogue with the Civil Service Commission to develop a PL3-IN road map.

I also hope to start within the next 12 months the concept of an EdTech Valley in the Philippines that brings together startup entrepreneurs who could develop online educational courses, investors and clients/customers in a digital marketplace housed in a brick-and-mortar type of facility that allows human interaction.

Lifelong learning is exciting and is rife for disruption! Join me in this bandwagon!

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